Cave Temples, Mahabalipuram

Visitor Information

  • Famous for: Intricately Carved Cave Temples, Worship place, Architectural Marvels, Important site for Mythological and historical Learning, Sightseeing, Photography, Historic Significance, Experience Seeking and Wandering, Connoisseurs.
  • Entrance Fee: There is no fee for entering here.
  • Visiting Time: The cave sites are open for tourist discretion from about 8AM in the morning to 6PM in the night.
  • Visiting Duration: You can strike off the place from your itinerary in about 3 to 4 hours but to fully articulate and admire the cave temples you need to have a day’s time in hand.

Trod along for 37 miles to the south of Chennai, and you arrive at the town of Mahabalipuram (or Mamallapuram) in the Kancheepuram District and I guarantee you’ll stay bewitched for a long time by the charm of the Pallava dynasty still lingering steadily in the town’s air. Cluster of rock-carved sanctuaries from the 7th and 8th centuries sit here stoically, waiting to be explored and admired by the numerous tourists every year. Also developed as a well-functioning town, the coastline of Mahabalipuram with pearly white sand beaches, divine worshiping sanctums and bustling young energy is a much sought after tourist spot that you’ll simple fall in love with. The popular cave temples here, which were excavated by chiseling with the use of iron mallets from rock surfaces are in totality eleven in number. Albeit all the mandapas are beautifully carved, the Mahishasuramardhini Mandapa, Krishna Cave Temple, Panchapandave Cave Temple and Varaha Cave Temples are the most enticing.

Mahabalipuaram Caves
Pandavas cave, Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra, CC BY 2.0

Traveler Tips

  • Carry a water bottle and a sun protection cap for sure else you’ll be too consumed by the harsh sun here to actually learn anything new.
  • You cannot afford to miss the magnificent structure of Lord Vishnu in the Varaha Avtar (boar), lifting Bhudevi Andal (Mother Earth) from the sea that stands tall at the Varaha Caves.
  • You need to come here with ample amount of time in hand to truly explore the details of the beauty and delicate architecture existing here.
  • Quite a lot of the structures are also undergoing the process of erosion, hence visitors are expected to deal with it very carefully.

Things to Do

  • Visit the art sculpture shops nearby that exhibit opulent structures of sculpture and art.
  • Witness with your own eyes what these places have endured since so many centuries. It’ll almost be like walking through a flashback of India’s cultural heritage and past.

Availability of Guides

Tour guides are also available to quip you with the knowledge of these temple caves. They charge a price according to their services.

Best Time to Visit

Months between November to February provide a respite from the harsh summer season here which extends throughout the year. Hence this is the most pleasurable time to visit Mahabalipuram.

How to Reach

Most convenient way to reach Mahabalipuram would be through the well-versed roadways starting from Chennai. Buses/ rental cars are available from Chennai. There is no railway station at Mahabalipuram and the nearest one is at Egmore, Chennai. The nearest airport is also at Chennai. Once inside Mahabalipuram, rented motorcycles and public and private buses are available in adequate amount here with nominal pricing. It’s the best way to get around in town to reach the cave temples.

Interesting Facts and Trivia About the Cave Temples Mahabalipuram

  • The legendary ardent devotee of Vishnu who we all know as Prahalada had a grandson named Mahabali, who hailed from this village in the yesteryears. Thus, the name of the town morphed to be called as Mahabalipuram.
  • Among all the rock-carved cave temples here, The Krishna Cave Temple is the most massive one. As the name suggests, it was dedicated to Lord Krishna around the middle of the 7th century.
  • In the Krishna Cave Temples, incidents from Krishna’s childhood, adventures with Gopis, incident of Govardhana hill have been clearly and beautifully inscribed.
  • Lord Vishnu and Goddess Bhumi have been devoted their own temple which is the Varaha cave temple.
  • Atop the hillock adjacent to the lighthouse on the Mahishasuramardhini Cave Temple which has surreal frescoes of Ma Durga throughout the tips of the hall.
  • Ma Durga’s fierce yet moving sculpture sitting atop the lion with all her weapons is captivating.
  • The Trimurti Cave Temple is a unique place of worship where you get to pay respects to the triumvirate lords of Hindu Mythology- Brahma Vishnu and Mahesh sequentially.
  • Another Temple dedicated to Ma Durga is the Kotikal Cave temple has no shrine for the goddess, but it is so supposed that female dwarpalas protect the entrance of the cave. Pilasters of Mahendravaram style of architecture are spotted here.
  • The Yali Cave Temple or Tiger Cave Temple has unusual architecture depicting 11 mythological animals adorning yali heads.
  • Atrarinachanda which is stated to be different than the rest and dates back to the 8th century is an east facing cave temple based at Sulbankuppam village.
  • Very close to Arjuna’s Penance, is the unfinished caves of Panchpandava exhibiting Narasimhavarman architecture.
Varaha Cave
Varaha cave, Photo by Sissssou, CC BY-SA 2.0

Nearby Attractions

  • The beach in Mahabalipuram
  • The Shore Temple
  • Five Rathas
  • Arjuna’s Penance
  • Crocodile Bank
  • Alamparai Fort
  • Kovalam Beach
  • Sadras Beach
  • The Indian Seashell Museum
  • Mahabalipuram Lighthouse
  • Krishna’s Butter Ball

Nearby Restaurants

  • Gecko Cafe
  • Le Yogi
  • Moonrakers
  • Highland Shoreline
  • Radisson Blue Resorts
  • Rose Garden Restaurants
  • Freshly N’ Hot
  • Nautilus Restaurant
  • Blue Elephant
  • Water’s Edge Cafe
  • Wharf

This is the number one destination to visit while in Mahabalipuram, so pull down your shades, pick up your archaeologists specs, and hop along for a walk through the past aiming to quench your divine thirsts too.

About Rohit

An architect by profession, Rohit Agarwal is a curious traveller, seeking out the minutest detail about the places he travels to, and that’s what one will find in his writings. His writings have appeared in various blogs, he’s currently trying to bring forth as many different places a traveller who shares the same level of curiosity like him would like to visit through his writings.

Leave a Comment